Unite union members have rejected the latest proposals by the Offshore Contractors’ Association (OCA) over changes to conditions for offshore workers in the North Sea, increasing the likelihood of industrial action.
The latest development follows last month’s news that unions put official industrial action ballots on hold while considering an improved offer from the OCA. Both Unite and GMB unions called for strike action in May 2015, following the OCA’s proposals to change working conditions for offshore workers in UK waters.
A Unite statement revealed that 63.5 percent of members balloted voted against the OCA’s offer to move to a three-week-on, three-week-off shift pattern, with a variable remuneration offer to mitigate the impact on terms and conditions caused by the changes to working-time arrangements.
Unite industrial officer Willie Wallace commented in a Unite release:
“We said previously that our members would have the final say and they are clear that the OCA offer isn’t good enough. North Sea employers must do more to address the deep concerns our members have over these shift pattern changes, from loss of earnings and livelihoods to the impact on workplace health and safety and quality of life.
“We are not blind to the challenges facing the industry, indeed we are acutely aware of it because the human cost of the downturn is clear in the deep cuts to our members’ incomes and livelihoods. However, the lesson the industry has to take from this process is that it must consult and engage with our members in a far more meaningful manner and that any changes impacting lives and livelihoods should not be imposed.”
Bill Murray, the chief executive of the Offshore Contractors’ Association, said in an OCA statement:
“We are extremely disappointed that the workforce has chosen to ignore their trade unions’ advice and reject our offer. We believe that we have acted as a fair negotiator throughout this process and that our offer balances the needs of workers with the requirements of business at this challenging time. While we have proposed a necessary wage freeze in the face of the urgent need to make efficiencies and zero percent inflation across the UK, we have offered to address two long standing issues in these negotiations on sick pay and holiday pay. When combined with changes to work patterns, these mean that our offer is worth on average up to $10,929 per annum extra per individual. This can only be paid for through productivity increases if we are to avoid further redundancies.
“The International Monetary Fund has named the UK Continental Shelf as the most expensive basin to do business in, and if we don’t take urgent action to manage costs and increase productivity we will begin to see investment move elsewhere. As we have said before, strike action will only serve to make investment in the North Sea less attractive and jeopardise the long-term future of the industry.”